Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. – Proverbs 26v20-21
We all learned in school that it takes three things to have a fire. You need a heat source to start it and you need fuel and oxygen to keep it going. To stop a fire you either take away the fuel or you cut off the oxygen supply. Fire fighters stop most fires by cutting of the oxygen with water or chemicals. Those fighting forest fires will often clear a line of any brush or wood so that the fuel is cut off.
Though fire can be comforting, it can also be dangerous, destructive, and even fatal. We like to think a winter’s fire in the hearth, but we don’t like the idea of a fire raging through our homes.
James tells us that our tongues can be the heat source that starts a fire. Our tongues also are the fuel to keep a fire going.
I think part of the problem is that we have a fascination with fire. Even children, without any teaching, normally like to play with a fire and strike matches if they find them. This dangerous fascination has destroyed many lives.
It is sad that we are also fascinated with another kind of fire, the fire of the tongue that James talks about. This fire is at least as dangerous in a different way. Far too many lives have been ruined by tongue fire.
This proverb has an answer. The best way to stop that kind of fire is to quit feeding it. Where there is no one to tell tales the tongue fire goes out. Where there is no one to create contention the fight stops.
The next time we are tempted to add fuel to the fire may we remember these wise words and, once again, keep our mouths shut.